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How Online Reminder Services Work

The Business of Online Reminders
The MemotoMe service lets users set up e-mail messages that the service will send out at a specified time.
The MemotoMe service lets users set up e-mail messages that the service will send out at a specified time.
Copyright 2008 HowStuffWorks

Unlike some Web-based companies, many online reminder services actually have a business plan. While some still operate mainly by securing venture capital from investors who hope the service eventually will turn into a lucrative business, many online reminder services have found other ways to cover costs and even turn a profit.

One way services make money is to offer multiple levels of membership. Many reminder services offer free accounts to users, but those accounts don't have access to the full range of services the company provides. To access everything, users have to subscribe to a paid account. Usually, the company bills these accounts monthly. Account costs vary from one service to another, and some services offer several levels of paid accounts.

Another way online reminder services make money is through advertising. With these services, you receive an advertisement along with your reminder. Ads might be a little distracting, but some people would rather put up with them than have to pay for something they're used to getting for free.

There are several reminder services that cater to companies or industries rather than individuals. An example would be a doctor's office that uses a reminder service to send messages to patients about upcoming appointments. These companies charge clients in return for providing reminder services.

Other reminder services are part of larger applications. Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook both have some reminder service functionality. In these cases, the services aren't the real moneymakers. Applications like Google Calendar make money through advertising, while Microsoft Outlook earns revenue through software sales and licensing fees.

Can online reminder services make enough money to survive? That depends on several factors, including how the company generates revenue and what its costs are. For some services, there may only be a few employees and not a lot of overhead. But others -- like Jott -- might employ several people and require more money to keep going. For many companies, the real question is whether or not users will be willing to pay for reminder services. Many of these services start out free, particularly when in a test phase called beta. Some companies may find it a challenge to convince users to pay for something they used to get free of charge.

Perhaps the best way to learn about these services is to start using them. There are dozens to choose from and most of them are free. Give one a try, but remember: even the best service won't help you out if you don't do some of the work yourself.

To learn more about online reminder services and related topics, take a look at the links on the next page.­